Updating Baumann, Kjerstad, Akin, Ciuffo, Baumler and more

Mike Baumann’s exclusion from a break-camp roster is the result of lingering discomfort in his right arm, leaving one of the top pitching prospects in the Orioles organization at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla.

Baumann, ranked No. 8 by MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, was shut down last summer at the alternate camp site in Bowie due to a right flexor strain. He was able to throw in spring training, though not competitively.

The Orioles placed Baumann on the 40-man roster in November to protect him in the Rule 5 draft. He went a combined 7-6 with a 2.98 ERA between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2019 and was the organization’s minor league co-Pitcher of the Year with Grayson Rodriguez.

“We’re just slow build, being cautious with him, managing some discomfort in his arm,” director of player development Matt Blood said today in a Zoom call. “But hopefully he’ll be back by the end of the month.”

Thumbnail image for Kjerstad Swings Arkansas White Sidebar.jpgOutfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second overall draft pick last summer who’s recovered from a bout of myocarditis, is performing conditioning exercises and light workouts in Bowie, getting acclimated again to everyday activity. He’s reporting to Sarasota in a week to continue his progression.

“It’s going to be a slow buildup process for him,” Blood said. “No need to rush him as he gets back to full health, full baseball condition and then eventually into games.”

Those games could be played with one of the lower affiliates or perhaps at the fall instructional league. The Orioles can’t map out a specific plan this early in the process, as I wrote here.

Keegan Akin, who was considered for a spot start on April 24 until cutting his left index finger in a kitchen accident, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday.

“Hopefully, he’s going to make a start for Norfolk on Friday,” Blood said.

The assignment would put Akin fourth in the Tides rotation behind Conner Greene, who starts tonight’s opener, Josh Rogers and Spenser Watkins. Zac Lowther and veteran Thomas Eshelman are on the Orioles taxi squad in Seattle.

Catcher Nick Ciuffo, who broke a bone in his right hand a few weeks ago after being hit by a pitch, could return at the beginning of June.

Blood said pitcher Carter Baumler, the fifth-round pick last summer who underwent Tommy John surgery, has “looked great,” and his progression “has been smooth.”

“He’s handled it really well,” Blood said.

The Orioles signed Baumler for an above-slot total of $1.5 million to keep him from attending Texas Christian University.

One of the primary goals throughout the organization is managing the innings of the younger pitchers, especially in the lower levels of the system. The math is complicated by the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season.

“Every single pitcher we’re going to be watching carefully and monitoring,” he said. “This is a little bit of an unprecedented situation and the roster sizes are larger. We will have large numbers of pitchers on each roster, so we will be monitoring it, but also we want these guys to get their work in, so it’s kind of a little bit of a double-edged sword.”

Blood downplayed the difficulties in assigning pitchers and position players to the various affiliates, which also figured to become a challenge based on the oddities of last summer.

“I think we try to go about it very systematically,” he said. “We would try not to let such small samples of performance, especially in spring training, influence too much the decisions.

“There were a couple that kind of had to make a call on, but a lot of them slotted in where you see them now. ... I would say it was kind of a normal process for that.”

Blood also said the entire extended spring training group has been vaccinated.

“We’re really excited about that,” Blood said, crediting minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker.

“We’ve been working on the group that was at spring training. We were slowly getting as many players and staff vaccinated as possible and will be continuing to do that at the affiliates where they are now.”

Blood noted the “significant presence” of Dominican players at extended spring camp, a wave of about 30, and eventually in the former Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The current group in Sarasota includes left-hander Luis Ortiz, given a $400,000 bonus, outfielder Mishael Deson and infielder Isaac De León.

Deson was acquired from the Rockies in the Mychal Givens trade and De León from the Marlins in the Richard Bleier deal.

Note: Former Orioles left-hander Wade LeBlanc signed a minor league deal with the Brewers.

blog comments powered by Disqus